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Chang v. Astrue

May 1, 2009

TANIA CHANG PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Peter G. Sheridan, U.S.D.J.

OPINION

This matter is before the Court pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C § 405(g). Plaintiff Tania Chang (hereinafter "Plaintiff" or "Chang) seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security finding her not disabled as defined in the Social Security Act and thus not entitled to disability insurance benefits.

I.

Tania Chang is a 40 year old woman born September 14, 1968. She is originally from Peru. She came to the United States in September, 1997, and became a United States citizen in September, 2008. She graduated from high school in Peru. She speaks very little English.. She currently lives in a house in Paterson, New Jersey with her three children. She is married, but is currently separated from her husband. She has not been employed since December 1, 2004, seven months after she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis ("MS"). Plaintiff states that complications from her MS (headaches, dizzy spells, and hand pain) caused her to stop working.

Plaintiff's past work history involved packing, delivery, and/or sewing. From September 15, 2003, to December 1, 2004, Plaintiff worked at an optical products company where she packed optical lenses into boxes and then placed the full boxes on a shipping table. While working at the optical products company, Plaintiff stood for approximately 7 hours a day and would frequently lift items weighing 10 lbs. The heaviest item she lifted during her employment at the company was 20 lbs.

Prior to working for the optical company, Plaintiff also packed cosmetic products into boxes. This required her to stand 5 hours a day and walk 5 hours a day. Id. After Plaintiff packed a box of cosmetics, she would lift the box and place it in a tub. Id. During this employment, Plaintiff frequently lifted boxes weighing 10 lbs. Id. The heaviest item she lifted during her employment at the company was 20 lbs.

Plaintiff also delivered newspapers on a daily basis. This job required her to lift and carry the newspapers. The job required her to walk for 15 minutes a day and sit for 3 hours a day. At all times during this employment, Plaintiff did not lift an item weighing more than 10 lbs.

Plaintiff also previously sewed logos on t-shirts and caps. This job required her to stand and walk for 7 hours a day, and carry boxes weighing 25 lbs.

Socially, Plaintiff enjoys visiting family members on weekends and spending time with friends. Plaintiff also watches television, and listens to music. Prior to her onset of MS, Plaintiff enjoyed dancing at family parties. She does not use any assistive devices. Plaintiff takes care of herself and her family. Plaintiff readies her children for school each morning, and then drives them to school. After returning home, she cleans her house, cooks and sometimes takes a nap. Since being diagnosed with MS, it takes her longer to cook dinner and she requires assistance to carry laundry between her house and car. Otherwise, Plaintiff travels and shops normally. (R. 71).

Review of Medical Records

Initially the records of the two treating physicians (Dr. Nunez and Dr. Lequerica) are analyzed because Plaintiff's argument centers on their reports, and that ALJ Lissek did not give them substantial weight in making her determination. Subsequent to analyzing the treating physician reports, other expert reports will be reviewed.

A. Dr. Jose Nunez (Treating Physician)

Dr. Jose Nunez has been the Plaintiff's family physician since April 26, 2001. On April 29, 2004, Plaintiff was diagnosed with MS. R. 201. This is her first major medical ailment. On May 24, 2004, she had lower abdominal and back pain lasting nearly five days. About 18 months later, Plaintiff complained of a severe headache accompanied with dizziness.

On May 10, 2007, Dr. Nunez conducted a physical and mental "Ability to do Work-Related Activities" assessment requested by the Social Security Administration. In his physical assessment, Dr. Nunez determined that Plaintiff could occasionally lift or carry a maximum of 10 lbs and that she could frequently lift or carry items weighing less than 10 lbs. Dr. Nunez also concluded that Plaintiff"s MS affected her ability to stand and walk, and that Plaintiff could stand and walk for at least 2 hours in an 8-hour workday. Furthermore, Dr. Nunez found that although Plaintiff's MS affects her ability to sit, she may do so for about 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. Dr. Nunez also determined that Plaintiff's MS affected her ability to push and pull with both her upper and lower extremities, stating that the "patient is very weak in upper and lower extremities with numbness and tingling of limbs." Additionally, Dr. Nunez opined that Plaintiff could never climb, balance, kneel, crouch, or crawl because she is "very unstable on her feet." According to Dr. Nunez, Plaintiff had limited abilities to reach, grossly manipulate objects with her hands, and finely manipulate objects with her fingers. Dr. Nunez also determined that while Plaintiff was unlimited in ...


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